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Santa Barbara County's Alisal Wildfire now tops 15,000 acres burned, with 5% containment

Santa Barbara County Fire Department photo by Mike Eliason
A DC-10 jumbo jet makes a drop on a ridgeline in the Santa Ynez Mountains, in the fight against the Alisal wildfire

Firefighters say growth is on eastern, western flanks of fire.

Santa Barbara County’s Alisal wildfire continues to grow in size, now topping 15,400 acres, with 5% containment. The big concern in being able to contain it continues to be the weather, with some erratic wind changes in the forecast.

It was wind which blew the flames down from the Santa Ynez Mountains south, to the ocean Monday. But now, it’s the eastern and western flanks of the fire which have been growing, are causing concern.

Matt Ferris is a Division Chief with the Santa Barbara County Fire Department. He says erratic wind changes predicted for the next few days could complicate things.

The strong wind continues to limit the ability of firefighters to use air tankers on the southern side of the blaze. Ferris says on Tuesday, powerful wind damaged one of the smaller planes being used in the firefighting effort, and it had to return to base in Santa Maria.

The air tankers have been able to hit the ridges on the north side of the fire. Ferris says that’s important, because if the wind changes, the chemical retardant already dropped will serve as a barrier to keep the flames from cresting the mountains and heading down towards the Santa Ynez Valley.

More than 100 structures are considered threatened, including an oil facility in Los Flores Canyon. But, so far, only two structures, an abandoned house and a mobile home have been lost. Firefighters say there is no imminent threat to Rancho del Cielo, the mountain ranch which served as the Western White House for Ronald and nancy reagan.

Highway 101 remains closed between Goleta and Highway 1.

Santa Barbara County is handing over command of the firefighting efforts Wednesday night to a federal team. Firefighters caution that it could take weeks to fully control the fire.

Lance Orozco has been News Director of KCLU since 2001, providing award-winning coverage of some of the biggest news events in the region, including the Thomas and Woolsey brush fires, the deadly Montecito debris flow, the Borderline Bar and Grill attack, and Ronald Reagan's funeral.